Lhasa is the administrative capital of Tibet. It is the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau, after Xining, and at an altitude of 3,490 metres (11,450 ft), Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the World. The city contains many culturally significant Tibetan Buddhist sites such as the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka palaces, many of which are located in Chengguan District, the city seat.
Architecture and Cityscape:
Lhasa has many sites of historic interest, including the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery and Norbulingka. The Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and the Norbulingka are UNESCO world heritage sites. However, many important sites were damaged or destroyed mostly, but not solely, during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Many have been restored since the 1980s.
The Potala Palace, named after Mount Potala, the abode of Chenresig or Avalokitesvara, was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama. After the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the government converted the palace into a museum. The site was used as a meditation retreat by King Songtsen Gampo, who in 637 built the first palace there in order to greet his bride Princess Wen Cheng of the Tang Dynasty of China. Lozang Gyatso, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, started the construction of the Potala Palace in 1645 after one of his spiritual advisers, Konchog Chophel (d. 1646), pointed out that the site was ideal as a seat of government, situated as it is between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa. The palace underwent restoration works between 1989 to 1994, costing RMB55 million (US$6.875 million) and was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994.
The graceful Lhasa Zhol Pillar, below the Potala, dates as far back as circa 764 CE. and is inscribed with what may be the oldest known example of Tibetan writing. The pillar contains dedications to a famous Tibetan general and gives an account of his services to the king including campaigns against China which culminated in the brief capture of the Chinese capital Chang'an (modern Xian) in 763 CE during which the Tibetans temporarily installed as Emperor a relative of Princess Jincheng Gongzhu (Kim-sheng Kong co), the Chinese wife of Trisong Detsen's father, Me Agtsom.